The prayer of Psalm 143 spoke for me today. As I read it, its words echoed the pain in my soul. Like the Psalmist, I have felt crushed by events in my life. The most recent, and most painful, is the death of my older son. Other heart-wrenching events have tested my resolve, and some have challenged my faith more, but his loss has struck me to the core of my being. I like to think that regular reading of the Bible and meditating on the prayers in the Bible before lifting my own words to the Lord has helped me during these dark hours, but those biblical prayers also have exposed my pain.
“Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my plea for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness! For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land” (Psalm 143:1-6).
Seeing pictures of my son taken shortly after he was found stunned me. Looking at his lifeless body in his coffin drove me to tears. Neither struck so severely as when today I was handed his death certificate. That piece of paper drove home with fierce finality that I would not converse again with Caleb in this lifetime. He won’t flash his sly grin when laughing with me. I often kidded Caleb that if he ate right and exercised regularly, he would live to be a hundred years old. Then, I would say, on his hundredth birthday, to celebrate, I would pick him up and we’d go bowling.
“Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord! I have fled to you for refuge. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground” (Psalm 143:8-10).
The reading of His word and the fellowship of fellow believers have given me strength. Still, I hurt, I cry, and I pray. Last week, I sang with an alumni Chorus at my alma mater’s annual Bible Lectureship. Among the hymn we sang was one that begins, “Yes for me, for me he careth.” As we rehearsed, tears welled in my eyes as I challenged myself to believe the words I sang. “O yes, he cares, I know he cares,” proclaims the chorus of that song. Finally when we sang in concert, I sang with confidence, assured by the love surrounding me from God’s people that yes, indeed, he cares and shares my pain, for he too has experienced the death of a Son.
Lord, Some symbols of death confront us with its reality, with its frightening finality. Seasons for repentance pass; we ignore pleas to reform because we are too busy. Then diagnosis of disease, an automobile accident, or the sudden death of a loved one jars our complacence. We no longer can ignore our mortality; we no longer can disparage the pleas of those who love us enough to question our direction. Draw us closer to you, that we may listen more closely and understand better. In Jesus’ name, Amen.